Nathan the Wise - by Gotthold Lessing
1st, 2nd, 3rd November 2007


Cast       Production Team
Daya  Jean Grover   Director Babs Oakley
Nathan Mark Langham   Production Assistants Christine Watson, Lesley Marsh
Rachel Jonica Brown   Stage Management Lynn Marsh, Lucy Parkin
Al-Hafi Martin Howarth   Properties Liz Adams, Lisa Maule
Knight Templar Iain Howland   Costumes Christine Eckley, Sylvia Zilesnick
Lay Brother Peter Gerlis   Continuity Sue Langham
Saladin Howard Platt   Set Design & Construction Jonathan Denne
Sittah Jean Cooper   Lighting Design Terry Tew
Christian Patriarch Roger Barker   Sound Design Jean Cooper
      Sound/Lighting Operation Cathy Lawrence


Review by Angei Beckett-Franks

ďNathan the WiseĒ was a brave choice because it is obviously not a Ďbums on seatsí play but still very pertinent to the present time.

The play has a straightforward plot but is very verbose, so well done with all the lines you had to learn. However, the difficulties you have at Lopping Hall with seating, stage size etc. doesnít appear to deter your audience, as this was well supported for a production of this type. Watching the audience and listening to their comments in the interval it was obvious that they enjoyed it and were following things closely

The music was very good and created the right atmosphere.

There were minimal props on a bare stage, which I thought was a good thing in this instance, but this means particular attention has to be paid to lighting and blocking. I found it difficult initially to determine whether we were supposed to be looking into Nathan's house or out. I felt that perhaps the lighting was a little subdued on occasion and that the light would be almost stark when anyone was outside.

The rostrum at the back did work but could have come further forward because sometimes people were masked or upstaged and there were occasional sound problems for members of the audience at the back of the hall.

Very good use of the ramps at the front of the stage and doors off to give as much space as possible, which kept a very good flow to the play.

I was unsure as to why the Sultan and his sister had accents and the rest of the cast did not. I assume that this was to convey that they spoke a different language but I donít really think it worked as there would be a variety of different accents and it is probably better to leave everyone conforming to the same speech pattern

Jean Grover gave a good characterisation of Daya,a servant who really sees herself as one of the family and so entitled to interfere and pass comment. Jean tempered it with just the right amount of caring attitude and brought considerable humour to the character as well. One thing I would say, is do be careful of too much use of the hands as this can be distracting to the audience and one would not want to miss the facial expressions.

Mark Langham  gave an excellent performance as Nathan: he is wise but no soft touch and Mark conveyed this and brought considerable sympathy to the part. He showed the strength of the man as well as the humanity.

 Jonica Brown as Rachel had a difficult role, having to bring so many emotions to the stage in a very short space of time. I felt that on one or two occasions Jonica lost her focus probably because she was concentrating hard on getting her lines correct. However, I did feel that she certainly warmed up towards the end of the play and that this was a competent Rachel and we did believe in her.

Martin Howarth as Al-Hafi brought comedy to the part and was likeable but I donít know if I would have trusted him. Martin has a very good voice but be careful about "swallowing your words", which did happen on occasion. I enjoyed his portrayal of Al-Hafi to which he really brought his own interpretation

 Iain Howland as Knight Templar had a complex character to portray. He's in turmoil most of the time but I was glad to see him finally crack a smile at the conclusion of the play. Iain has great stage presence. He's the kind of actor who draws the eye when on stage. However,  he did sometimes look a little slouched when standing still for any length of time I thought it odd that he so readily accepted the fact that his love was his sister I would have thought that most men might have been a bit disappointed!

Peter Gerlis as Christian Lay Brother: Peter has obviously been a monk at some time in his past. I donít know any monks and I donít think many other people do either but when we imagine how they would be, it is as Peter portrayed him. Calm, quiet, generous, wise.   A very good characterisation.

Howard Platt played the Sultan with real assurance and conveyed the impression of Saladin's power, probably the most important where this role is concerned. He could perhaps show a little more light and shade between his moods. Frustration to pacification and the love for his family and the fear that he could quite easily have killed them but nevertheless a very assured performance.

Jean portrayed Sittah as a very happy and wise woman balancing out any extremes of her brother's nature. Jean has marvellous facial expressions and responded so well to the conversations taking place in front of her when all is revealed. Unfortunately, the audience didnít always get the benefit of this because of her placement at the back of the stage and sometimes because of her veil. But her movements were eloquent in themselves and I enjoyed her performance.

Although Roger Barker had a cameo role as the Christian Patriarch it was obvious that he really understood every word he spoke (difficult because this is a translation) but I thought Roger made the words sound quite musical, despite the fact that his character appeared so odious. He has a practised stillness on stage, which is very east to watch. Another good performance.

Thank you for inviting me to give this crit. and good luck with your next production of Proof.